DAYS OF OBLIGATION

AN ARGUMENT WITH MY MEXICAN FATHER

Ten years after his first book, Hunger of Memory, Rodriguez again threatens to redefine the way we think about ethnicity, education, and religion in present-day America. And he does so in disarmingly baroque prose—poetical, nuanced, and, at times, heroic. Rodriguez's essays are informed by his ``Latin skepticism'' and his ``firm belief in Original Sin and the limits of possibility.'' Hardly the typical posture for a cosmopolitan Californian who lives in sybaritic San Francisco in one of its Victorian ``doll houses for libertines.'' But then again, there's nothing typical about Rodriguez, whether he's meditating on the AIDS epidemic; musing on the legend of the notorious bandit Joaquin Murrieta; or mucking about the reconstructed missions in southern California. Rodriguez travels to Mexico, where, he says, the Indian suffers from ``Gitchigooism''—the habit of placing him outside history, and of treating him as a ``mascot of the international ecology movement.'' Like the belligerent Chicano, the Mexican denies the power of miscegenation and assimilation. Rodriguez, on the other hand, understands the future of the West—of America itself—as a struggle between two traditions: the comedy of California, with its Protestant faith in individualism, played against the tragedy of Mexico, with its communal legacy of Catholicism. While his immigrant father clings to the sadness of the past, Rodriguez embraces contradiction. He seeks out order in the exuberant Protestant chaos; he embodies the conflict of theologies in his often ambivalent behavior. At the slightest hint of ideology, Rodriguez retreats into poetry and irony. His aloofness is worthy of Naipaul; his vision of America echoes Ralph Ellison; and his gimlet eye reminds us of Joan Didion—though he's the Catholic, middle-class postscript to her Protestant anomie. Rodriguez's moral and aesthetic imagination guarantees that this beautiful book will linger long after the polemics in the culture wars subside. Everywhere here, one is in the presence of a superior sensibility, all the more remarkable for its modest beginnings.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-670-81396-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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